Happy Place: Cheeky Monk Belgian Beer Café, 534 East Colfax Avenue, 303-861-0347
The Hours: Monday through Friday from 3 to 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close
The Deals: $1 off all drafts, bottles, tower samplers and wines by the glass; half-price frites, croquettes and artichoke dip
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The Digs: Beer really does make everything better. After a day of spring skiing -- real spring skiing, where you peel off layers by the run and slosh through mud puddles in the lift line -- there's nothing more gratifying than sitting on a deck watching people careen down snow-covered hills while knocking back a pint. In the summer, neighborhood barbecues, baseball games, fishing trips and breakfast would lose much of their sparkle if not for beer. Autumn takes us back to college, where new class schedules are interrupted by belching assholes shoving you out of line as you wait with your red plastic cup for some nasty swill and a cheap buzz. But when late November rolls around, and it's freezing outside, we always rediscover how wonderful it feels to snuggle up with a rich and hoppy winter ale. And the Cheeky Monk, a Belgian beer bar, is the perfect spot to imbibe.
Cheeky Monk's bar is smaller than you'd expect, but it opens to a gigantic room. There is deep, dark-stained wood for miles, and although large dining areas are sometimes cold and unwelcoming, the Cheeky Monk always feels cozy -- busy or not. The bar is impressive: beer glasses of all shapes and sizes hang from wooden racks and tap handles occupy every inch of open space between the bartender's well and the long row of high-back bar stools. It's an unbeatable venue for enjoying high-end beers and some fantastic eats (the fish and chips rock the casbah), all while watching the street scene that unfolds on East Colfax.
The Verdict: Our bar stool neighbors for the evening weren't stoked on the Cheeky Monk: "Dude," they have four goddamn pages of beer and it's all ten bucks a glass!" whined one.
Here we find what few people understand about really great beer: it's expensive, and unlike the beer you stole from the fridge in the garage when you were fifteen, high-end beer is a lot like wine -- complex, full of incredible flavors and it often pairs beautifully with all kinds of food. But, dude, because of the process and the quality, great beer costs a little more than Bud Light.
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In Denver, if you want outstanding French food, you hit up Z Cuisine; if you want authentic Asian grub, you head to Federal Boulevard; if you want to be blissfully coddled by your dinner, you go to Fruition; and if you want really amazing beer, you go to Cheeky Monk. At all of these places, you get exactly what you pay for, even though a more generous happy hour would be nice, Cheeky Monk. Just sayin'.
A recent power outage found us at this lovely beer café guzzling Trappist ales and perusing the appetizers. Although we were skeptical about ordering the artichoke dip ($4.50), quite possibly the most tired appetizer imaginable, we were totally psyched when it appeared in a small black kettle topped with bacon and dredged in creamy bleu cheese and sided with deep-fried wedges of pita. But while it might seem impossible to screw up fried cheese, the Gouda, Fontina, and Swiss croquettes ($4.50) were lackluster. Still, we could have put a straw in the apple-cherry reduction they were paired with, even if the soggy discs of cheese were not what we had hoped. The service is fast and the bartenders can spot an empty glass from a mile away, but the snide comment we received upon questioning an extra beer on our tab left us with a sour taste.
Overall Grade: B